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How often should you hike? Beginners to advanced hikers

How often should you hike? Beginners to advanced hikers

Hiking is one of those activities that I’ve always enjoyed and I live 20 minutes from the mountains so it’s something I could do, if I wanted to, every single day. That being said, there is a recommended frequency for hiking.

Though you can work up to hiking daily, beginners should start with 1 or 2 hikes per week. Once you have built up the endurance to talk while you are hiking – you can increase the difficulty of the hikes or increase how often you hike. When it comes to losing weight, hiking is similar to most cardio workouts and it’s recommended 2-3 times per week. Some hikers have taken on the challenge of hiking daily, which is great for those who are already experienced and are confident with their skills.

As you can see, when it comes to hiking, the frequency is based on your goals. If you just love hiking or if you want to lose weight or if you’re training for a big trip, how often you should hike changes. Below I’ve broken out some common goals to help you know what is best for you.

Can you hike every day?

Some experienced hikers can hike every day and though that works for some people, that isn’t something a beginner should start until they have developed the endurance and skills needed for daily hiking. There are a few things that you can ask yourself to evaluate if it is a good idea for you: 

  1. Can you talk while you are hiking without losing your breath? If you can talk while you are hiking, then you should be able to either increase the difficulty of the hike, the distance or the frequency of hiking (a.k.a. more hiking per week).
  2. How long does it take for you to recover from your hike? In order to hike every day, you need to be able to recover fully before the next hike begins. If you aren’t able to recover fully, then you will get to the point where your body can’t handle hiking and you may get sick.
  3. How long are you hiking? If you plan on hiking 30 minutes per day, then it is likely that your body can handle that much easier everyday than if you plan on hiking 2-3 hours.
  4. Why do you want to hike daily? There are many reasons that someone may want to hike daily but if you want to hike daily for a specific reason like losing weight, then I’d recommend evaluating if hiking every day is the best way to lose weight – you can lose weight hiking but 2-3 times per week. However, if you hike 4-7 times per week, you’ll start building muscle, which will make it so you don’t lose as much weight (even though you are burning fat and toning down).

How often do you need to hike to lose weight?

Hiking is like most other cardio exercises and you can get the benefit of weight loss by hiking 2-3 times per week for at least an hour. That being said, you also need to make sure that you are providing your body the right nutrients and hydration, not only needed for weight loss, but to support the rigoureus activity that hiking can be.

Since your body gets used to whatever exercise you tend to do regularly, it is a good idea to adjust your hiking regimen to increase the intensity or increase the duration to lose weight. Here are a few ideas for doing that: 

  1. Hike faster and/or farther: I find it really enjoyable to beat my distance or time for that distance on each hike. Plus it has the added benefit of pushing your body so it doesn’t get used to the hiking.
  2. Hike steeper or more rigorous routes: The incline of a hike significantly changes how much your body can handle – a mile at a 10 degree incline is going to burn less calories than a mile at a 30 degree incline.
  3. Add weight: adding weight for beginners can cause injury if too much is added too fast so start off slow. Some people use a weight vest for this but I recommend you bring a backpack filled with useful things to increase the weight instead. For example, bringing a second water bottle can add a bit of weight with the added benefit of having more water on you if you need it. I also recommend that you bring a first aid kit, a camera and tripod.
  4. Add a mini exercise to every mile: you should be stopping to drink water and stretch every couple of miles but you can also add a bit of exercises like jumping jacks, lunges and squats to help your body burn more calories. If you bring a towel or yoga mat, you could also do bicycles, leg raises and pushups – not to mention yoga.

Is hiking once per week good?

Hiking once per week is a great way to get outside, see nature and get a reset for the rest of your week. You get the physical benefits of exercise while also getting the emotional and psychological benefits of being in nature and fresh air. 

However, if you are trying to lose weight or you’re training for a backpacking trip then increasing how often you hike per week is probably a good idea. For losing weight, 2-3 times per week is more ideal (see above). If you want to train for a backpacking trip, then steadily increasing how often you hike and then stop hiking the week before your big trip will be ideal (see below).

How often should you hike to train for backpacking?

When it comes to backpacking, you are typically hiking with more weight, longer distances and for a longer period of time. With that being the case, you need to cater your hiking leading up to the trip to prepare for this.

If your backpacking trip is 2-days long and you are going 20 miles, then you need to be able to hike your pack 10 miles per day (depending on the itinerary). With that being the case, you can probably train by hiking 2-3 days per week with a total of 20 miles.

It’s also a good idea to prepare your pack in advance so you can see how much weight you need to be able to handle. Once you have that number, you can break up the time you have till your trip and gradually work up to that weight. I’d recommend hiking with your backpacking pack so you are used to where the weight will rest on your back and hips.

Make sure that you give yourself a week to fully recover from your training before your trip – that way you won’t be sore or tired while on your backpacking trip from the training you were doing to prepare for it.

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